Ending maternal deaths in Nigeria

Despite efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), maternal mortality rate worldwide especially in Nigeria has remained unacceptably high, heightening the need for more efforts by all and sundry to reduce the number of women dying during childbirth and possibly eliminating it.

We acknowledge that Nigeria had taken great strides over the years in making interventions available to address the immediate causes of maternal death and disability, such as routine antenatal care services, skilled attendance at birth and life-saving maternal health medicines.

However, this seems not to be enough hence the repeated cases of reported maternal deaths especially in the Northern part of the country. This is not because of a lack of technical know-how but because individuals are yet to view the fight from a collective angle.

High maternal mortality must be tackled at a much more fundamental level. In the complexities and uniqueness of Nigeria’s current situation, it is suggested that the fundamental remedy is to stamp out the chaos in the country by getting the politics and governance structures right. Accurate population census is paramount. Compulsory registration of births and deaths, fixing the broken-down educational system and bringing back the public service ethos the country once had, are core issues.

Also, with the recent figure released by the UN, we now know how much and where we need to invest. These figures are a drop in the ocean compared to the dividend expected and the funds available.

We believe that it is wrong to even refer to this as a cost because these are smart, affordable investments that will transform the lives of women and girls, their societies, and our world. The cost of inaction is much higher.

Every day, more than 800 women die from preventable causes during pregnancy and childbirth, according to the UNFPA. More than 230 million women want to prevent pregnancy but are not using modern contraception.

One in three women globally has faced some form of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, while harmful practices – such as child marriage mean that every day 33,000 girls are being forcefully wed.

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Keeping girls in school and economic empowerment are key to all of these interventions. So in reality, it’s not very expensive – we have some idea how to do it, we just need the will power to go forward and do it.

In conclusion, we are of the opinion that if Nigeria is to end preventable maternal mortality, we must move beyond a clinical focus. We must tackle the risk factors that begin long before labor and delivery. This includes social determinants like place of residence, socio-economic status and women’s empowerment. It also includes institutional factors such as national resource allocation, data infrastructure and political accountability for evidence-based programming.

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